The coronavirus (COVID-19), a respiratory disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, has created dramatic challenges and changes in the lives of many individuals worldwide in terms of economy, social interactions, and individual lifestyles. In January 2020, the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern of the outbreaks. Soon, COVID-19 became a pandemic in March 2020. However, people worldwide are working together to reduce the likelihood of the disease spreading by practicing everyday precautions followed by state or national officials. This is due to the fact that anyone can have the possible risk of receiving severe illness with COVID-19. Individuals with serious medical conditions or adults who are 65 years or older are at higher risk of these severe illnesses and are accountable for 80 percent of COVID-related deaths. The spread of this life-threatening disease and the stress of practicing standard precautions raise many concerns to vulnerable individuals, such as senior adults.
Isolation measures and physical distancing with the continuous spread of the pandemic can influence many populations’ mental health, including elders. Barriers to physical activities, in addition to the reduction of socialization, can increase the likelihood of seniors who may suffer the loss of independence and influence cognitive impairment. A recent research study on “COVID-19 pandemic-related changes in wellness behavior among older Americans” found that individuals who maintain higher levels of physical activities during the pandemic display lower levels of depression and anxiety and higher levels of quality of life. In contrast, individuals who decreased the ability to maintain an active lifestyle during COVID-19 presented sedentary behaviors such as sleeping, sitting, and engaging more in television and entertainment and presented higher levels of stress.
When stress is present in individuals, it can cause physical, mental, and psychological health concerns. The implication of stress can cause; feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, frustration, changes in appetite, energy, desires and interests, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, difficulty sleeping or possible nightmares, physical reactions such as headaches, body aches, digestive problems, worsening chronic and mental health conditions and increase the use of tobacco, alcohol and other substance.
In a recent survey conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), one in four (24%) adults ages 65 and older reported anxiety or depression in August 2020 and relatively constant since the early beginnings of the pandemic in March. According to a Medicare Beneficiary Survey, the rates of older adults impacted by the pandemic are significantly higher than the one in 10 (11%) older adults with Medicate who reported depression or anxiety in 2018.
The following figure is an analysis conducted by KFF among 65 years and older adults. Participants self-reported their health status and reporting signs of anxiety or depression during the coronavirus pandemic.